A report in Forbes had uncovered a billionaire backer, Peter Thiel, who has history with Gawker, behind Hogan's case. However, a Florida court upheld the original verdict on Wednesday.
Entertainment website Gawker, which was forced to pay out $140 million for invasion of privacy to former wrestler Hulk Hogan in March over a sex tape it published back in 2012, has failed in its attempt to decrease the amount it had to pay out because of the recent revelation that Hogan’s case was funded by a tech billionaire with an axe to grind against them.
On Tuesday (May 24th), it was revealed by Forbes that billionaire entrepreneur Peter Thiel – one of the founders of PayPal and who invested early on in Facebook – helped to fund the case brought by Hulk Hogan (real name Terry Gene Bollea). This was discovered when a person briefed on the case spoke on the condition of anonymity, and the details of the extent of Thiel’s help to Hogan is protected by a confidentiality agreement.
Thiel, 48, has a history with Gawker after it outed him as gay back in 2007, once describing one of the organisation’s sister sites Valleywag as “the Silicon Valley equivalent of Al Qaeda”.
However, Gawker announced the following day that it was adding this new information to their appeal against the original ruling, which it says would be “ruinous” if forced to pay it. They had hoped that the Florida court “will correct the outsized Florida jury verdict and reaffirm the law that protects a free and critical press,” according to a statement on Wednesday.
However, the court upheld the original payout in a verdict reached on Wednesday.
Two months ago, the jury awarded the colossal sum to the former wrestler after the online publisher posted a short video of Hogan having sex with a now ex-friend’s then-wife.
The revelations came a day after Gawker’s founder, Nick Denton, told the New York Times that he suspected that there was a secret backer behind Hogan’s campaign. “My own personal hunch is that it’s linked to Silicon Valley,” he said.
There’s nothing inappropriate about reaching out for third party backers in such cases – the whole industry of litigation finance is based on it. However, it is not common for backers to have ulterior motives, and suspicions were raised when Hogan’s lawyer removed a claim from his original complaint that had the effect of eliminating Gawker’s insurance company from the suit, according to the New York Times.